What was your family dynamic before adoption/foster care?
Our family’s story is a little different from others. It actually started before my husband and I met. In October 2002 God blessed me with a beautiful little boy, Mack. Mack is my miracle baby. I delivered him 6 weeks early weighing in at 5lbs 12 ounces. He was completely healthy, unlike the bad marriage that I was in. Mack’s biological father was both physically and verbally abusive towards me. Because of the love that I had for my son I made the decision to end my marriage and raise my son alone. In 2005 I met my wonderful husband and we married in 2006. In April 2007 Rich began the process of adopting Mack and the step-parent adoption was finalized in August 2007. Rich and I had said from the word go that we wanted more children. We found out not long after Mack’s adoption was completed that it wasn’t to be due to fertility issues. We immediately started to discuss adoption. I came across fostering to adopt on the internet and immediately began to do my research. The first step we took was to take our IMPACT training. In the end Rich and I decided that we would wait to become foster parents and potentially adopt until Mack was a bit older. At least at the time we thought we made the decision to wait.
What is your family dynamic now?
In June 2012 our little family of three became four when we welcomed Liam Owen. He’s my second miracle baby.
How did you make the decision to adopt/foster?
We didn’t exactly make the decision to adopt. In November 2011 our niece called me from Utah. It’s a call I’ll never forget. There was the usual few minutes of small talk and then the one comment and I knew. She said “Aunt Sam you know how you always said if I ever need a place to stay” I interrupted her and said “You’re pregnant”. She explained what had been going on in her life and that she was living in less than ideal conditions. So we all pulled together as a family and arranged for her to come to Georgia. Once she was here and we got through the holidays I began the conversation of adoption with her. These were some of the more difficult conversations we had ever had. I had contacted adoption agencies on her behalf. I told her that being a single mom is a lot of work. I tried so hard to get her to just consider the impact that becoming a single mom at a young age would have not only on her but her son. Please understand that I never doubted that she would be a good mother, but she lacked the resources to care for her child properly. One Saturday morning I was again trying to bring up adoption. Out of no where she blind sided me and said I can’t give my baby to a stranger. The only way I can place him for adoption is if you adopt him. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I didn’t even discuss it with my husband before I said yes. There were many conversations on how this arrangement would work. We discussed what she wanted, what we needed for our family. My only requirements to make this work was that she would remain active in Liam’s life and that when the time came to explain why and how she came to the decision to place him for adoption with his biological great aunt and uncle that it would be a conversation that we all have together.
What was the training/paperwork process like for you?
My husband and I went through IMPACT training when we were considering becoming foster parents. I have to say that this is by far (in my opinion) the most valuable training you can receive if you are considering fostering children. To be honest it helped my husband and I come to the decision that becoming foster parents at that time in our lives wasn’t what we needed to do. We made the decision based on what we learned in the class. A child in foster care isn’t in foster care because they’ve had a perfect life. They are there because whoever was entrusted to care for them didn’t or they were physically, sexually or verbally abused or for thousands of other things that a normal person finds incomprehensible. When a child has been removed from an environment and that is the only life they know, that is their normal. God gave us Mack and we are very protective of him and we felt that bringing a child into our home who may have gone through any of these things could hurt him. So we said that we would wait until he was older and allow him to have a normal childhood.
The paperwork for Mack’s step-parent adoption was minimal and didn’t seem that bad. We were not required to complete a home study during his adoption. We were however with Liam. Where we live in a relative adoption a home study is not required by the state, but the individual judge can ask for one if they choose. When we received the paperwork in the mail it was extremely overwhelming. I wasn’t at all concerned about the GBI/FBI background check. To be honest what stressed me out the most was the home study. Now that we’ve done that I can honestly say it’s really just a formality more than anything.
How long did you “wait” for your child(ren)?
After placement, what’s the one thing that you learned in the pre-placement phase that you were the most grateful for?
Having the time to get to know my niece better. Listening to her recall things about her childhood that were either good or bad. I had the opportunity to watch her and learn things about her. At the time I didn’t know just how valuable this would be. Now that we have Liam I see so many things in him that remind me of her. I really enjoy being able to tell her how you do this and you should see Liam do the same thing just like you. Or did you know he has your laugh, your love for this food/drink.
After placement, what’s the one thing no one told you that you wish you had known?
The importance of finding a really good lawyer to handle your adoption. Ask friends who have been through the adoption process for recommendations, do your research.
What was your biggest surprise about adjustment as a family?
When we brought Liam home from the hospital I wasn’t fully aware of just how big our family would grow. I told our niece that I still wanted her family to be involved in Liam’s life. In the back of my mind I didn’t think that her paternal grandparents would be involved. It was one little conversation with her grandmother that changed everything. I just simply said I hope you know that you are welcome to see Liam after his birth and if you want to be his life I would love it. I didn’t really know her grandmother, but she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said really. I said absolutely. She has been to see Liam many times since he became a part of our family and I feel as though I gained another Mom who treats me like I am one of her own kids.
What one piece of wisdom from your experience can you share with other potential adoptive families?
I think the one thing that I’ve learned over the last 6 ½ years is that it’s God’s time, not my time. My husband and I tried for many years to have a baby on our time, not God’s time. If you would have told me in 2005 that I would meet the love of my life, that he would become the best father to my son and that when we had settled on just being a family of three that God would bless us with a little piece of heaven named Liam, I would have told you that you’re crazy. We were so busy trying to do things our way that we failed to see God’s way. God knew when I divorced my abusive husband and I was too busy beating myself up over the fact that my child would have to grow up without a father that in 2005 I would meet and marry the man that was always meant to be Mack’s father. God knew that when Rich and I were keeping calendars and running from one fertility doctor to the next that in 2011 our niece would get pregnant and make the decision to have us to adopt Liam. God knew from the very beginning that Rich would take in and love a little piece of my heart named Mack and that I would take in and love a little piece of his heart named Liam.